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Meet Bilquis Begum

Bilquis is well acquainted with domestic violence. She became a PeaceMaker to ensure that her son and daughters grow up knowing how to love their spouses and have peaceful homes.

Bilquis is 38 years old and has undergone severe abuse for the full 20 years of her marriage. She was married at the age of 18. The very next day she was introduced to marital rape.

She eventually resigned herself to the belief that it was the fate of every married woman to obey the demands of her husband at any time. If she refused or resisted her husband for any reason, she was beaten horribly. Even if it was because her children were in the same room.

Bilquis was embarrassed by the bruises that would show on her face and body when she went out in public, but that was the least of her worries.

The sexual abuse was the most degrading for Bilquis, but she would have put up with it if the violence at home did not affect her children so badly. Bilquis was treated like a maid at home, looking after her in-laws and her alcoholic husband. Yet her husband and in-laws refused to provide her or her children with basic needs like food. Bilquis ate once every 2-3 days. Her children got used to sharing 1 bowl of rice that their landlord would smuggle to Bilquis’ eldest daughter a few times per week. If Bilquis ever got a hold of enough money to buy a packet of milk, she would keep the milk with the neighbors and go to their house to have a sip. Her aunt would come home every 2-3 days to take her out of the house and get her a meal.

Bilquis’ family and neighbors cared about her but did not have the resources to help her live on her own. They did what they could to help her get food for her and her children every couple of days. Her in-laws were only complicit in the abuse she faced. They encouraged her husband’s doubts about her character and encouraged him to beat her on suspicion she was having an affair with her cousin.

Bilquis finally took the bold step to come out from the abusive relationship. She finally spoke out about the abuse after approaching an Operation PeaceMaker counselor. The sexual abuse was in particular difficult for her to share. She had never spoken to anyone about any of the abuse before.  After counseling, she realized that she has a right to her own body and violence is not justified. After several counseling sessions, she gained her confidence and made a conscious decision not to suffer.

Now, as a single mother, she is taking small steps towards growing in her role as a provider. She got so used to her husband being the “string master”, and she just his puppet. Now, she is taking back the reigns of her life. She is trying to increase her income by growing a business.

Her dream of living peacefully with her three children has finally come true. She is very firm that she will give a good education to her two daughters and one son. Her elder daughter is 17 now, and everybody in the community is trying to force her to get married. However, Bilquis is very clear that she will educate her daughter first, and only get her married when she is ready. Bilquis wants her daughter to decide for herself when to get married.

Bilquis plans to educate her son not to violate anybody and to respect all women, and to educate her daughters to never be silent victims of abuse.   

Bilquis felt that to raise her children with the knowledge they need to grow up compassionate and educated, she needed training herself. She joined the PeaceMaker program, to become equipped to affect change in her community and ensure her children grow up knowing their rights. Bilquis still works as both PeaceMaker and pappad-maker (bread maker), and is saving to start a tailoring business.

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